Young artist's amazing triumph

By James MortlockWHEN Luke Massey won a major art competition, the judges had no idea the youngster had serious sight problems.But what makes the nine-year-old's victory - thanks to his colourful and detailed pottery model of a famous Suffolk home - even more extraordinary is the fact that the little vision he does have is in black and white.

By James Mortlock

WHEN Luke Massey won a major art competition, the judges had no idea the youngster had serious sight problems.

But what makes the nine-year-old's victory - thanks to his colourful and detailed pottery model of a famous Suffolk home - even more extraordinary is the fact that the little vision he does have is in black and white.

Luke, from Great Whelnetham, near Bury St Edmunds, who also suffers from photophobia, which prevents him from seeing at all in bright sunlight, is taking the accolade in his stride and getting on with lessons as normal at his new school.

The judges for the calendar contest, which was run by Havebury Housing Partnership, were convinced they had found a “remarkable” young talent in Luke - and only learned of his sight problems when he turned up to collect his prize.

An image of Luke's winning entry - the Toll House in Sicklesmere, which he passes every day on his way to school - will appear on the front of the calendar.

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The housing partnership devised the contest for schoolchildren in west Suffolk and asked for entries on the theme of the place where they lived.

Luke created his clay model of the distinctive Toll House as it is close to where he lives and something of a milestone as he travels to and from Hardwick Middle School in Bury St Edmunds.

Steve Cook, chief executive of Havebury Housing Partnership, said Luke had fought off stiff competition from 35 other young hopefuls aged between four and 16 from 11 different schools in west Suffolk.

Heath Rosselli, a portrait artist and member of the judging panel, said: “The standard of entries was very high, but Luke's model impressed us in particular with its level of detail. He's a remarkable young artist.”

Perhaps the most remarkable part about Luke's creation is the vibrant colours he has used - the schoolboy has no concept of them in the way most people do as, for him, there is only black and white and innumerable shades of gray in between.

“I can't see anything, but black and white - I know that yellow is a kind of dark white. It doesn't stop me wanting to produce art,” said Luke.

“I didn't know what this was going to come out like, but I think it looks really good - even if I can't see the colours.”

Luke, whose condition is a rare sight disorder known as achromatopsia, put his skills down to the influence of his mother, Juliet Massey, who is an artist.

“She does some really good paintings, so I think I'm good at it because of her,” he said, adding he was pleased to have won the competition.

His proud mother added: “Luke has always loved art and does a lot of black-and-white diagrammatic drawings at home. I was so pleased for him that he has won this competition.”

Luke, who spends some of his spare time making models of robots, was a pupil at Great Whelnetham Primary School when he entered the contest earlier this year.

The school will get £250 thanks to his victory, while Luke won vouchers worth £70, which he plans to spend on art equipment.

School headteacher, Carol Ingham, said it was “bursting with pride” that Luke had won the contest.

“He's always been keen and talented at art and we wish him well in his new school, which he started this term,” she added.

The 2005 calendar will be distributed free to more than 5,000 tenants of Havebury Housing Partnership.

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

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